17.7.04 We had a little problem with our names and the Czech Republic on Iran´s border (they knew only Czechoslovakia). It was quite surprising, everywhere people knew Czech quite well. At the end, after 30 minutes, we're entering Iran as only foreigners. Immediately we're surrounded by money exchange dealers (10 000 Rial=1 Euro). It's also time to sent the last SMSes (there is no roaming of Iran with western countries!) via Azerbaijani network and than we're taking a taxi to Ardabil (100 000R). Finaly, we drive as far as Sayren, up the mountains (150 000R). Distance from Astara to Sayren is about 150km. Transport is so cheap here that it is waste of our precious time to search for the bus. You could travel by taxi hundreds of kilometres without any problem (1 litre of petrol cost 800R = 8 (Euro)cents!!). The road is winding up through lush densely forested hills from the sea level to altitude of 1500m. Hard to imagine that some parts of Iran are so green. We're making a short refresment at stand with honey.
We've got a room in Sayren for 80 000R (room for three with WC). Sayren is well known as a holiday destination for Iran people in Summer (to enjoy cool air of 1700m), as well as in Winter (to get skiing!). There is even kind of nighlife here. Everyone has the latest mobile phone here (same as in Azerbaijan), definately newer than in Czech or Germany! The biggest attraction is spa. Water is about 46 degree hot!
We are having tea (3000R) in local "smokery" and here we meet Ali. A very friendly man who knows mountains. Together, we're going around the city up to hill with a view to Mt.Sabalan. It's not a solitary mountain, as we sought, but a small mountain chain/ridge. There is also more snow than we expected.
Ali is inviting us to his house. We are sitting on Persian carpet, eating sheep's cheese, pancakes, melon and coca-cola. Very nice moment.
After visit, we're going to take shisha. Than I am going with Daniel to the local hot spring (of course in "men's" hours). People from Iran relax easily in 46 degree "boiling" water. We jumped in and out after few seconds. But at the end it was pleasant ... :-)